top of page

Whitney Hughes, Director of the Allegheny County Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service, frequently appears on the “Legal Briefs” segment of Pittsburgh Today Live on KDKA-TV. Following is a transcript from a KDKA appearance.

You're 18 and Graduated – Now know the Law

Becoming a legal adult brings both great opportunities as well as responsibilities. New situations and transactions contain their own set of pitfalls which may cause problems as well.


Below are the most likely problem areas and some helpful tips to get through this time of change.

Graduation Parties

You’ve graduated from high school and the warm weather is here – graduation parties are on the horizon!


Some tips to keep in mind (for both young adults and their parents) before the party gets too out of control:


1.Although you are a legal adult at age 18 YOU ARE NOT OF LEGAL DRINKING AGE.


*Not only will you be charged as an adult, you will face adult penalties as well.


Under Pennsylvania law, if you are found to have ANY measurable amount of alcohol (.02 BAC) in your system you will be charged with an underage DUI, and you will lose your license for at least 90 days.


2.Pennsylvania, like many other states, applies a “social host law” to people who decide to serve alcohol at a private party. Basically, the law states that if you serve alcohol to a minor, and the minor injures either themselves or someone else, the host can be sued and may have to pay damages to the injured person.


3. Parents who allow minors to drink in their home can also be charged with furnishing alcohol to minors – a charge punishable by at least a $1000 fine and up to a year in prison.


Whether you’re going off to college and decide not to take advantage of university housing, or are just starting out on your own, many will be getting their own apartment or finding roommates to share the rent. Again, some helpful tips:


  1. A lease is a legally binding contract which gives you certain rights as well as obligations.  Make sure you read and understand the lease. It should contain a detailed description of who is responsible for maintenance of the property, the consequences for failure to pay rent, etc. .​

  2. Make sure you note and document (take pictures) when you move in and when you move out as well. 

  3. Parents – also keep in mind that if you are co-signing the lease with your child you may also be sued in the event the lease is broken or the premises are damaged in any way.


This is probably the first large purchase a young adult will make on their own. Many times due to limited funds, young people will opt to purchase a used car. While there are some great deals out there, it’s buyer beware with some other deals.


  1. DO NOT BUY A CAR “AS IS”. “As-Is” means “with all faults”. This means that the buyer has absolutely no recourse should something go wrong.

  2. Be wary of extended warranties and service policies as well. Read the fine print to make sure that the warranty covers as many components as possible and that the deductible on the service policy isn’t so high as to make the warranty pointless.​

  3. Work with a reputable dealer and have a mechanic look over the car to make sure there aren’t any underlying problems you may have missed.


Once you are a legal adult you are able to enter into contracts and be held legally responsible for them. This applies not only to rental leases, but to other contracts as well such as cell phone contracts, car rentals, and credit agreements.


  1. Being held legally responsible for something means you can be sued. Since you are an adult, securing legal help also rests on your shoulders. While your parents may be there to offer either financial or emotional help, you will be the client who needs to hire an attorney.

  2. Often young people who do not have well-established credit may find themselves looking at contracts that include additional fees or extremely high-interest rates. Read ALL terms of the contract thoroughly.

  3. A second pair of eyes never hurts – when in doubt, have someone else look over the contract to make sure you haven’t missed anything.

The Allegheny County Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service can help you find an attorney equipped to handle this specific type of case. To speak with an attorney or for more information, call 412-261-5555 or click here.

bottom of page